Rick Warren’s Invocation

So here is another blog about something other than teaching. Yesterday was a historic day and I think it is worth writing about.

Rick Warren, evangelical megachurch pastor from California, gave the invocation at yesterday’s inauguration ceremony. First, let me get my bias out of the way. As a evangelical protestant with a slight liberal tilt I really enjoyed his prayer and have no real issue with it. Now for the analysis.

This prayer, at the start especially, was enormously inclusive.  Right near the beginning he recites in English the Sh’ma, one of the most important prayers in Judaism (its also a verse I like for the record). He than calls God the “compassionate and merciful one”. This is a clear reference to the Qur’an and many Suras that refer to God (Allah) as such. When you include his christian references he ably includes all three Abrahamic religions in his prayer. No small feat for an evangelical methinks.

Most of the middle of the prayer is pretty standard and good. He prays for the first family, the country, for us to uphold good values and asks God to forgive us when we don’t. All very nice so let me fast forward to the end.

At the end he says Jesus’ name in 4 languages (Hebrew, Arabic, Spanish and English) and than closes with the Lord’s prayer. Leading the country in such an explicitly christian prayer likely irked a few people given the ecumenical nature of what is supposed to be, by and large, a political ceremony (however steeped in religious tradition it may be). However I’m largely OK with it and enjoyed the prayer. Here’s why.

Right before he starts the end he calls Jesus, “”the one who changed my life.” He changes tones near the end and makes it very personal. He mentions Jesus not for any superficial gain, not to cynically mention Jesus because “that’s what Christians do.” He does it because Jesus (God) has had such an impact on his life that he cannot help but mention him. He understands it seems by his language that not every American is where he is at but for him its truth and so it seems extremely appropriate for him to end the prayer the way he did. It reminds me of Joshua when he told the Israelites,

“But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”(Joshua 24:15)

I have no reason to doubt Warren’s sincerity in making his prayer and so I won’t. Warren will continue to be criticized for past comments but from my end on inauguration day he did America right, by acknowledging our differences while also staying true to his own, personal, deeply held beliefs.

May we all have something we believe in so much that we can’t help to talk about it because it is just that good.


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